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Lawsuit against Nunavut RCMP claims force losing touch with Inuit

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IQALUIT, Nunavut — An Inuit family whose son was shot by RCMP is suing the force over its alleged failure to staff Arctic detachments with officers who can speak with and understand the communities where they are posted.

It’s the second recent lawsuit to question the relationship between officers and Indigenous northerners. The longtime northern lawyer who represents the family said she fears the RCMP is gradually losing its connection to the people they are supposed to serve.

“We want to prevent another shooting death of a person in Nunavut,” said David Qamaniq, the father of Kunuk Qamaniq, who died of a gunshot wound after a confrontation with Mounties in Pond Inlet in 2017.

A statement of claim says the 20-year-old man was grieving the one-year anniversary of his sister’s suicide the afternoon he was shot.

“Together with his mother he cried for his lost sister,” the statement says. “Kunuk expressed despair and suggested he, too, might commit suicide.”

His parents became concerned and contacted RCMP when they learned their son had borrowed a rifle to go rabbit hunting and was headed to the community graveyard. David Qamaniq told the officers his son was sober.

Shortly after, the Qamaniqs were summoned to the community health centre, where they learned their son had been shot by an officer. The young man died shortly after.

The lawsuit is an attempt to force the RCMP to institute recommendations from several inquests into suicides and police shootings in Nunavut, said Qamaniq.

“RCMP, I don’t think, have followed the recommendations,” he said.

The lawsuit alleges Mounties aren’t trained in how to deal with possible suicides. It claims officers don’t speak the language of the people and don’t use the communication tools they have.

It also refers to “the personal and cultural biases of the officers … both unexpressed and which they had expressed in the community.”

It accuses the RCMP of failing to recruit Inuktut-speaking officers or  civilian members who could build bridges with local people.

A statement of defence has not been filed and none of the allegations has been proven. The RCMP did not respond to a call for comment.

V-Division, which polices Nunavut, boasts fewer and fewer Inuk officers and has three of about 120 in total. The RCMP website says none of its 25 detachments offers services in Inuktut.

V-Division spokesmen have said they try to prepare southern officers for policing remote Inuit communities. There is a firearm occurrence somewhere in the territory every day and a half.

“They orient them a little bit — a little bit,” Qamaniq said. “Just the tip of an iceberg. That’s not enough.”

Anne Crawford, the family’s lawyer, said the force is losing touch with Inuit.

“Everyone is concerned about the overall relationship between the RCMP and individuals in Nunavut these days,” she said. 

“I have practised here for a very long time. It seems to be more and more difficult for RCMP officers to get a really good feel for the communities they’re working in.”

A class-action lawsuit filed in an Edmonton court in December alleges RCMP in the three northern territories regularly assault and abuse Indigenous people.

The Nunavut legislature has also discussed the problem. In 2015, a report was commissioned into police misconduct. The report was never released.

A letter that year from Nunavut’s legal-aid service suggested it had information on 30 cases of excessive use of force. The service’s chairwoman has said there were 27 civil cases filed between 2014 and 2017.

— By Bob Weber in Edmonton. Follow @row1960 on Twitter

The Canadian Press

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Tax credits, penalizing big polluters, key to Conservative climate plan

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OTTAWA — Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer wants to give corporate tax breaks to companies that develop and patent green technology in Canada and introduce another federal tax credit for residential energy-efficiency projects.

Scheer is unveiling his long-awaited climate plan later today in a speech in Gatineau, Que.

It is the last of five big policy pronouncements he is making this spring in the lead-up to the fall election campaign.

A party official says the Conservatives intend to scrap the federal carbon tax but keep a price on pollution for heavy industrial emitters.

However their plan won’t tax emissions from major polluters, but will require them to invest in clean technology as a penalty for exceeding emissions limits.

Scheer intends to use his plan to reduce emissions in line with Canada’s targets under the Paris Agreement on climate change, but the Conservatives have been hinting that their plan will include taking credit when Canadian products reduce emissions overseas.

The Canadian Press

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Acts of kindness emerge at chaotic Raptors rally derailed by shooting

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TORONTO — When gunshots sparked panic and chaos at a massive outdoor celebration for Toronto’s NBA champions this week, some fans caught in the stampede worked to keep others out of danger, at times putting their own safety at risk.

As authorities now look to learn lessons from the event marred by overcrowding and violence on Monday, accounts of acts of kindness by complete strangers have emerged.

The shooting — which took place shortly after the Raptors went on stage during a victory rally at Nathan Phillips Square — injured four people, police said. Three people were arrested and two firearms were recovered, with investigators still looking for another suspect and firearm.

As hordes of fans scattered in fear, Mo Hussein said a group of young adults he had just met helped shield his three-year-old daughter from the crowd.

Hussein had gone to the rally with family members, including his niece and nephew, and ran into some of his niece’s friends, who he did not previously know. His daughter had just fallen asleep in her stroller when shots set off a wave of panic in the packed square, he said.

“All of a sudden the crowd started running towards us,” he said. “Fortunately I didn’t panic, my first thoughts were to protect my daughter who was asleep in the stroller. I just told people around me to come help me protect the stroller.”

Hussein said his niece’s friends formed a semi-circle around the stroller, protecting his daughter, who remained blissfully unaware of the commotion around her. When the crowd dispersed, “there were strollers around, there were shoes strewn all over the place, peoples’ hats and personal possessions all over the place,” he said.

That selfless act from the group prevented what could have been a terrible outcome, said Hussein, noting many children were put at risk at a purportedly family-friendly event.

“It basically means that even at the most evil point, humanity prevails,” he said. “(My niece’s friends) were afraid themselves and they were shivering after the fact, a lot of them had tears in their eyes and the fact that they were brave enough to actually help protect my daughter is something I really appreciate.”

Some who received a helping hand also witnessed other acts of kindness.

Kimi Marfa, who uses gender-neutral pronouns, said they were separated from friends moments after the shooting, which occurred steps away from their group.

“It was so scary not knowing if my friends were hurt or if they were safe,” Marfa said.

The 16-year-old said they ran into the nearby Old City Hall courthouse and saw children who had lost track of their parents. The kids were crying and looked scared, particularly when security announced the building was under lockdown, Marfa said.

Other parents who were still with their children stepped in to console those who were alone, Marfa said. “There were mothers acting as mothers to these others kids, hugging them and singing to them,” Marfa said.

Marfa was also helped through a panic attack by a woman in the courthouse, they said.

Suzanne Bernier said she ran into a nearby Canadian Tire where employees told distraught Raptors fans to come inside and stay calm. Store employees acted professionally and with compassion despite not being prepared to deal with dozens of terrified people seeking shelter, she said.

“It was so nice to see people stepping up to help each other,” she said. “It was just everyday citizens coming together to help each other out.”

Alanna Rizza and Paola Loriggio, The Canadian Press

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june, 2019

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